Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Screen Time Tracker

In the new update for Apple devices (phones, tablets, etc), you can choose to track your screen time usage.

I did, and I just got my first 1-week summary. Holy Crap.

On my iPad, I averaged over 2 hours a DAY! On my phone: about 40 minutes a day!

What the heck am I doing all that time? Yes, some of it is watching Netflix and YouTube podcasts while I’m knitting in the evenings, but I spend way more time than I thought on social media, especially Instagram. It’s a bit frightening.

I know I am addicted. If I’m ever caught waiting in line, I get that urge to pull out my phone and check it. If I’m in that same situation without my phone, I definitely feel antsy. And if I go to work without my phone, I feel a bit lost!

I was unsure about letting the device track my usage so specifically, but I think it’s a worthwhile thing to do. I see the apps and sites I’m spending a lot of my time on and when I’m using my devices the most.

You can set limits on app use, but I want to see if even just being aware of my usage will help reduce it.

Unfortunately, we can’t use it on our kids’ iPads, because they’re too old for this update.

How do you feel about screen time tracking?


Waiting for Rain vlog 


Thought I’d try something different today and do a video blog (vlog) about my most recent knitting project, the Waiting for Rain shawl. Enjoy!

Some notes:

  • The shawl is designed by Sylvia McFadden
  • I used US 5 needles
  • See my Ravelry project page for this knit here


Space Exploration: Yay or Nay?

Last week, I did an outreach activity with a class of grade 5-8 gifted students. These events typically go like this: the first day the students learn about impact craters, how they are formed, etc.. They then learn about dependent/independent variables and are given a demonstration of a cratering experiment (dropping balls into a bin of flour). We tell them how they can design their own experiments (choosing to change one independent variable, keeping all others constant, they can measure a change in one dependent variable). The second day, they design and run their experiments. The final day, we come back to the classroom to find out what they did, what issues they had, etc., and then do a show-and-tell with impact rocks and meteorites.

This class, however, took things in a completely different direction. Apparently, during the second day, they began to talk about whether funding for space exploration should be continued. They got so wrapped up in this discussion that the teacher wanted them to act out a debate with us (the “experts”) there to add information as necessary.

So, on the third day, we ran this debate. Each student decided how they felt about the subject and were congregated by groups around tables (yes to human and robotic space exploration, yes to only robotic missions, no to everything, and undecided). Each group then got about 5 minutes to talk amongst themselves to decide which points they wanted to present during the debate. Then, one person from each group got about 1-2 minutes to list their points. After each group went, the debate began!

It was really interesting hearing their opinions (and what those opinions were based on), and how passionate they were about them. We tried our best to stay out of it, but we did interject facts if someone was way off (for example, gas on Jupiter is NOT the same gas we put in our cars). Many people actually changed their minds, so changed tables during the process.

During the debate, we took notes, so at the end we addressed a few points that were brought up a lot. For example, many talked about the economics of spending so much money on space exploration, so we let them know that NASA gets less than 1% of the American budget (we tried not to imply whether that is too much or too little).

At the end, there were still two students decidedly in the “we should NOT explore space” category — that is, until we brought up the fact that the iPod one of the girls was taking notes on wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for missions to space. Same with GPS, satellite TV, and cell phones (here’s an awesome site about spin-off technology). They moved over to another group pretty quick after that!

Even though the students need to work on their fact checking and debate skills, it was really rewarding to be a part of something like that. I feel good about the future of our world with these kids in it.

What I Hate About Word

I’ve started using Microsoft Word a lot more since starting my new position. This is mostly because a) all the templates for reports, letterhead, etc. were all made in Word, and b) I haven’t found a good LaTeX processor for Mac or another good alternative.

The past week has been particularly bad for Word annoyances. Here are just a few of my all-time cringe-worthy things about it (if anyone knows easy fixes, let me know):

1. Sometimes, when using the “justify” option for paragraph alignment, it will spread out the last few words to use the entire line so there are enormous spaces between each letter.

2. Bullet lists are never, ever, automatically done the same way. It takes forever to override the automatic(ally wrong) formatting; however, turning the auto-formatting off makes it a pain in the ass too.

3. Inserting figures and tables in a specific spot is pretty much impossible. This is made 1000x worse if two figures or tables need to be remotely near each other.

4. Figure and table caption numbers are never correct. Ever.

5. It will auto-correct some words, but not others.

6. Most recently, when I ctrl+z to undo something, it automatically goes to the first page of the document (WTF?).

If you use Word, what things annoy you the most?

Trimming the Fat

I spend way too much time on the internet.

I check Facebook numerous times per day.

I am a member of two online message boards (one with 3 close friends, and another larger group).

I follow 60 blogs (and read them all, and comment on a good portion).

I write about 3 posts a week for my blog.

I have a few news sites I check daily.

I now have a Google+ account (luckily I’m only following about 20 people, so I only check it once a day).

I do internet searches for work and personal purposes often.

I’m practically attached at the hip to my multiple emails.

I have to update a portion of a website for work.

It’s getting to the point where I’m doing all this stuff more out of obligation than enjoyment. I get overwhelmed when I don’t check FB or my Google Reader a few times a day, because otherwise it’s hard to keep up with. Of course, now that I’m working, it’s tough to do it during the day so everything piles up. This is also the reason why I don’t want to branch out into new things, like Twitter or podcasts, because I feel like I already spend so much time on the internet that I don’t want to add to it.

One of my 2011 resolutions was to cut back on my internet use, but obviously I haven’t done a great job of it. How do you keep your internet use in check? Any tips on how to trim back without feeling like I’m missing something?

Alyssa 2.0?

I’ll admit that I haven’t been keeping up with technology so much in the past couple of years. Yes, I have a blog, a Facebook account, and check my email every 13.26 seconds. But, I’ve never used Twitter, I’ve never downloaded a Podcast, and I keep track of the blogs I read by clicking on them over on the right hand side as opposed to subscribing to them through some sort of reader.

Just this past week though, something has come along and has made me think about expanding my technology repertoire again: Netflix.

For those of you who don’t know what Netflix is, first let me ask…

have you been living under a rock??


One of my online friends (see? I’m not that behind the times) who lives in the US has been raving about Netflix forever. But, it hasn’t been available in Canada until just last week. I signed up pretty much immediately and watched my first program (interestingly enough, about how technology has affected our society) within 5 minutes.

It was eye opening. To be able to sit on my couch, choose a TV program that I would never have access to given our lowly basic cable package and watch it without much effort and very little cost was amazing. There really are great things about technology!

On the same day, I posed a request to my Facebook friends. I have become bored with the music I listen to and wanted some recommendations. Well, Cath suggested that I download some Podcasts – something I’ve never done! So, now I have a 2-hour program sitting in iTunes that I can listen to at my leisure.

Also, because I live almost across the country from my parents, we are starting to replace phone calls with video chats over iChat. As great as this is now, it will be even more fantastic once Baby G arrives. He’ll be able to meet his grandparents from 3000 km away!

I’m also considering a Kindle, though I’m not entirely convinced I would enjoy that more than the real experience of a book. Does anyone have one, or some other reader? How do you like it?

Now I’m wondering what other wonderful technology is out there that I should try out. Any suggestions?

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